New Year 2013


The New Year offers an uncertain hope of new things to happen. Since the Great Earthquake and tsunami (March 2011) that darkened the future of tens of thousands of people living in East Japan, the country still remains in an uneasy situation with regard to its future.

If one follows the main stream of the mass media, the general public looks at the Year2012 that has just passed away as a period of political and economic crisis brought about by business stagnation, the unsolved Fukushima nuclear disaster and the political confrontations with Japan’s neighbors. The year just ended with the failure of the Democratic Party of Japan to keep the reins of government. Japan started the New Year with the Liberal Democrats, a “new party” that had held the power for over 50 years, except the last 3 years in the opposition.

The Voices of Migrant Workers Living in Japan
The Year2012 was a significant period for over 2 million foreign workers living in Japan. There were substantial changes in the Japanese legal and political system that touched deeply their lives. One among them was the ruling of Tokyo District Court that stated that “if a Japanese man sires a child with a foreigner overseas and does not file for the child’s Japanese citizenship within three months of birth, then citizenship may legally be denied.” The result would be to help Japanese men to evade responsibility if they fool around with foreign women. In fact, our migrant desk has been involved this past year with some legal cases concerning this issue.

Most probably the case of Govinda Prasad Mainali (a foreign worker) was the most publicized by the mass media. Mainali was serving a life sentence in Japan because of murder he had never committed but after 15 years he was declared wrongfully convicted. He was “released” with a public apology, although, in fact, they transferred him to an immigration jail and was deported to his country of origin.

The abolition of the Foreign Registry Law and the system that did not allow foreigners to be registered with their Japanese families on the local residency registry system was a major legal change that affected all foreigners living and working in Japan.

The results are ambivalent and those stateless and the ones unable to obtain proper documentation (most probably more than one hundred thousand “illegal”) are practically thrown out down the legal cliff. Jobs and dwelling, their daily lives have become so difficult that they are bound to remain in the underground. (by Ando)

[I recommend “The year for non-Japanese in ’12: a top 10”, The Japan Times, January 1, 2013]


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